Catherine Parish: the battle for the unborn is fought in the mother’s heart

26 Mar 2008

By The Record

In this Easter season, the season of hope and new life, the popularity of the film Juno (it’s still on at the cinemas) especially among younger adults has a particular resonance. 

Despite the fact that some of its resolutions were questionable in a Catholic moral sense, it is nevertheless a public sign of a possible turnaround in secular thinking, a questioning of  current social ‘wisdom’ about abortion from a simply human perspective.
It makes clear something that perhaps has always been true, that the battle for each unborn baby’s life is ultimately fought and won in the mother’s heart. 
In our increasingly non-Christian world, the Church’s upholding of the moral right to life for every person is absolutely right and true; but this film is a very clear illustration that the Church is simply upholding God’s own truth; the knowledge written on every human heart that every human life from its earliest moments is a complete and wondrous miracle. 
No matter what circumstances she is in or her beliefs, or even whether she wants to be pregnant or not, every woman knows at the core of her being that what is within her from the earliest days of pregnancy is another person as human and unique as she is.
The biggest victory of pro-abortionists has been to deny women permission to admit this truth, and to have this denial enshrined in laws. 
Juno is permitted to realise and admit this truth to herself during the course of her visit to the ghastly local abortion clinic. 
In a funny but deeply moving episode the little protester outside the clinic informs Juno that her baby wants to live – a hypothesis whose possible truth doesn’t seem to matter to Juno.  It is the plea “your baby has fingernails” that stops her.  The objective moral truth does not move Juno but the physical truth of her baby’s actual fingernails does. 
This connection of the abstract right to life to the concrete recognition of the sheer miracle that is conception and gestation is a turning point for Juno. 
Juno goes through with her pregnancy because of her detached sense of the baby as a separate person from this moment. 
Her baby is a person who deserves the best life she can give him or her even though she feels she cannot take on that responsibility herself. 
The delight and wonder of Juno, her stepmother and her friend at the ultrasound visit (and the serve the stepmother gives the ultrasonographer) made this graphically clear; the growing baby is a wonder to behold, quite distinct from the situation of the mother. 
One other important glimmer of change was present also – the idea that the baby’s father had feelings also emerged slowly through the film, though he struggled to articulate them. 
There was a love between Juno and the boy that was not destroyed by her pregnancy, but seemed to grow as he sorted out his own ideas about it all. 
There was a tremendous sense of loss in the short episodes after the birth in the hospital; where one is sure the stepmother would have kept that baby in a minute if Juno had wanted to.
And Juno’s own quiet grief, which gives the final lie to her brash detachment and reminds us that the giving of life requires sacrifice, made you wish that they might have kept the baby, and made a family instead of a mistake.
There is hope.